Two text adventure games popped up for the Spectrum this week, about as different from each other and they could be.
First up, Locked in by Simon Allen.
The genre of 'text adventure' doesn't really fit here. The game puts you in a locked room, from which you must escape. There's no reason, no plot - just puzzles. As you solve each room, the door unlocks and you proceed to the next. It feels like playing through a series of off-kilter crossword clues more than an adventure of any kind.
The puzzles themselves are surrealist, but basically logical. Sadly, there are instances where I got stuck far too long when trying to guess the correct verb, where a few synonyms could have been accepted. Also, the game expects you to repeat actions, and perform them in the right sequence - so even if you're doing the right thing, you might not get the desired result.
As an example, when you enter room 2, it describes the room as being decorated with wallpaper.
EXAMINE WALLPAPER doesn't do anything.
If, however, you EXAMINE WALLS, then the game mentions the wallpaper explicitly. And then you can EXAMINE WALLPAPER and get a response, but not a helpful one.
But if you EXAMINE WALLPAPER two more times, you find the key you need to progress. Nothing else has changed, the game just wants you to ignore the first 2 discouraging messages and keep trying. This is at best frustrating - and you could argue that it's intended to model the frustration and relief of searching for something then finding it in plain sight.
For a game purely based on its puzzles though, the mechanics around those puzzles are sometimes lacking and undermine the experience. Which is a shame, as it's a fun collection of mini-challenges.
In contrast, the second game - Italiana by Andy McDermott - is a story-driven affair, with puzzles that are much simpler. The intention is to allow the player proceed to the end, enjoying the story along the way. This is a much easier game, with presentation that helps you along. Key words in descriptions are highlighted to reduce parser guesswork to a minimum, and at one point the game even prompts you to save, as there's a tricky bit coming up. As far as the plot goes, it concerns a honeymooning couple visiting a quiet Italian village. The groom disappears, and you play as his new wife, who quickly finds it's all gone a bit Wicker Man.
It's short and the puzzles are simple, but it fits in a satisfactory story and some nicely lurid horror prose.
Both games are worth checking out, but maybe be ready to work around some interface issues in Locked In.
Locked In! is available here
Italianate can be acquired here